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What Access-a-Ride Strike?

ABLE NEWS

Feb 08-COLUMN-DIA-NY

   

What Access-A-Ride Strike?

   

BY EDITH PRENTISS

  

Access-A-Ride (AAR) is Manhattan Transit Authority (MTA)/New York City Transit’s (NYCT) paratransit service.

At midnight on Dec. 9, the Para Transit Drivers and Mechanics - ATU Local 1181-1061 AFL-CIO went on strike against four of the 14 AAR carriers. Repeatedly we heard, aren’t the drivers prohibited from striking under Taylor Law?

As employees of the carriers in contract with the MTA, they are not public employees. Since neither the city nor the MTA were party to the strike, they were not willing to step in to work towards a resolution.

A federal mediator met with both parties on days three and eight. On day 10, union members voted to accept the carriers’ offer. On day 12, it seemed as if AAR was back to full operation.

Usually when a strike is pending, the city, the MTA/NYCT and the Office of Emergency (OEM) Management publicize a contingency plan that usually includes liveries, cabs and jitneys ignoring their inaccessibility. Just before the AAR strike, I was forwarded an email from OEM’s Citizen Corps Council. that stated, “OEM and MTA do not anticipate this strike to adversely affect the special needs community.”

Searching for a contingency plan, I checked NYC.gov, the city’s web site. There were plans and reports from prior transit strikes.

On OEM were the TLC’s plans for the 2007 taxi driver’s action and AAR’s expedited applications for the 2005 franchise bus strike. It was 17 hours into the strike before OEM emailed that three of the 14 carriers were on strike and reported the MTA had “reassigned all subscription trips using private ambulette and black car carriers… priority service will be given to customers with special medical needs” Subscription users are riders who have recurrent trips, two or more times a week.

The media reported that AAR offering vouchers as if it were the solution for losing half of AAR’s capacity. The problems with vouchers are multifaceted.

While the vast majority of AAR riders are ambulatory, there are probably a significant number who have difficulty getting into, out of and riding in cars. Vouchers don’t work for most wheelchair users, because there are few accessible black car/liveries.

To use a voucher you must have the disposable income to pay and be organized enough to apply for reimbursement. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) contributes to the lack of accessible vehicle problems by failing to enforce FHV 6-07 and refusing to release a list of bases that own an accessible vehicle.

The TLC’s not yet implemented central dispatch supposedly would allow those needing an accessible trip to call for an accessible vehicle. The Taxi For All Campaign has expressed concerns with central dispatch, including the expected wait time of up to an hour.

Having the drivers/mechanics and the reservationists provided by contractors rather than MTA/NYC employees, allows finger pointing when there are problems rather than resolution. We believe paratransit riders deserve the same level of MTA/NYCT as all other riders.

In 2005, the MTA phased out most franchises by bringing those companies into the NYCT. Don’t disabled riders deserve the same consideration?

 
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